Tag Archives: Volleyball

Volleygaels comes up short in the MIAA Playoffs

The 2018 season has come and gone for the Mount Saint Joseph Volleyball team. The team had hopes of getting back to the championship for a second year in a row. As many recall, the Gaels lost to the Gilman Hounds last year in the championship game. Gilman won with a score of three sets to one, and the Gaels were out for revenge this season.

The Gaels started off with an outstanding record of five and one. The wins include sweeps over Curley, Boys Latin, Spalding, and Saint Pauls. The team also won a hard fought battle against a new-look John Carroll that is much better than in recent years. The Gaels single loss in the first six games came against rival Calvert Hall. It was the first game of the season and a battle the whole way. The Cardinals eventually prevailed, but the Gaels proved they could hang with a historically great team.

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Middle Hitter Bennett Carr (Senior) goes up for a powerful spike against Archbishop Curley.

This year is significantly different for MSJ than recent years because of the youth on the team. The Gaels have 5 seniors, 4 juniors, and 5 sophomores. That is something Head Coach Sam Bianco has never had before. Coach Bianco also attributed the team’s loss to Calvert Hall partly because of the youth and inexperience. Three out of the five sophomores are starters, and playing at the varsity level is something completely different for them. Coach Bianco likes to say that JV volleyball is for learning, while varsity is for competing. That is an excellent way to put it as most, if not all, freshman that tryout have never played the sport before. Everything from the tempo, intensity, and skill level is different on varsity.

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Middle Hitter Sean Carr and Setter Brennan Turner form an intimidating block as Defensive Specialist Chip Quinn gets in position for a dig.

The team was led by 5 seniors. Setter Brennan Turner, Middle Hitter Bennett Carr, Libero Bennett Kramer, Defensive Specialist Chip Quinn, and Right Side Hitter Ray Kovacsics. This group has been playing together for four years now and provided great wisdom, skill, and leadership to the team. The juniors include Outside Hitter Kyle Burke, Middle Hitter Gabe Rupert, Setter John Romiti, and Defensive Specialist Jason Kalinock. This is also a great group that brought some new faces to the team, as Kyle Burke was the only one on Varsity last year. The team has a group of very talented sophomores. This includes Defensive Specialist Deon Abellana, Libero Lucas Plumey, Outside Hitter Colin Chalk, Outside Hitter Reece Tydings, and Middle Hitter Sean Carr. Colin unfortunately had surgery on his foot before the season started and was out for the whole year, but they are all talented players that have bright futures in the program.

The second half of the season saw the Gaels produce sweeps against the likes of Curley, St. Pauls, and Spalding. The team also saw exciting wins against John Carroll and Boys Latin. The team experienced hard fought losses to MIAA Volleyball powerhouses Loyola, Gilman, and Calvert Hall, but senior night was an exception. You couldn’t ask for a better setting for a senior night game: it was a Friday, and a big student section fueled the intensity. The Gaels faced off against Gilman for the last time, and the two teams traded games back and forth which saw the match proceed into a decisive fifth set. The Volleygaels battled hard and ended up defeating the reigning champs, getting revenge from last year’s title game.

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Outside Hitter Kyle Burke (Junior) rises up for a kill against Archbishop Curley.

Heading into the playoffs as the fourth seed, the Gaels had a dominant showing against fifth seeded John Carroll and swept the Patriots to advance to the semi-finals in a highly anticipated match against Loyola. Unfortunately for the Gaels, they were swept in three competitive games that were decided by a couple of points each time. The team had an excellent year and is poised to be a contender for years coming, as the depth on the roster is unmatched by any other teams in the league. We thank the seniors for their hard work and excellent careers, and wish the team good luck as they begin their offseason.

Coach Sam Bianco Earns Win 100 During Varsity Volleyball Season

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St. Joe celebrates their semi-final win over Loyola.

Wow. Just one of many words that could be used to describe 2017 Varsity Volleyball season. It was filled with exciting matches, countless memories for the players and coaches, and a sensational playoff run. The Volleygaels recorded a regular season record of 11-5, including 3 straight wins to start off the season. The season was one to remember, with multiple milestones being reached and incredible matches thanks to the amazing support of the student section.  

Sam Bianco, the team’s head coach, gained the 100th win of his career in a 3-0 sweep of Archbishop Curley during the season. It was a memorable moment that not many coaches can experience. “This is my 12th year as the varsity head coach, so I have been around awhile,” said Coach Bianco. Coach Bianco also talked about the success of the program and the great players he has coached over the years who have enabled him to earn so many wins. Coaching and teaching in the classroom are so closely related for Coach Bianco, and he says that learning on the field or during a sport is just as important as what happens in the classroom. Coach Bianco stated that “high school sports gives us the opportunity to accomplish things as part of a team. Working and being part of a team in necessary because after high school, you will have to do that anyway.”

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Coach Sam Bianco ’01 celebrated his 100th win with a victor over Curley.

Coach Bianco knew that the 100th win was possible during the season, but he didn’t think about it differently than any other game during the season. For Coach Bianco, he realized that winning and playing sports is fleeting and won’t last forever, so for him it is important that his players learn lessons that they can carry beyond high school. Coach Bianco finished up by saying, “Make everything in your life mean something! The lessons that we take with us from high school sports are so valuable.”

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The Volleygaels, along with St. Joe supporters, celebrate a point during the semi-final match.

The team also witnessed outside hitter Will Targonski break the all-time record for career kills with 381! Memorable moments also include multiple comebacks, specifically senior night. The Volleygaels were playing Gilman and found themselves down 2-1 with the game on the line in the 4th set. They pulled away and ended up winning that set, sending the match to a 5th winner take all set. It was back and forth the whole set and MSJ survived several match points for Gilman. After barely staying alive, the Gaels pulled away and won 20-18, taking the match. Luke Williams had the game of his life: he was solid in the back row all night and had an incredible 5th set, which included a highlight play in which he had multiple game saving digs leading the team to victory.

The team entered the playoffs with a home match against St. Pauls where they had an all-around great effort from all the players and ended up sweeping the Crusaders 3-0. The 4th seeded Gaels advanced to the semifinals and took on the top seeded Loyola Dons in what was arguably the best match of the season. The team started especially slow and found themselves in a 2-0 hole and on the verge of the the season being over if they lost the next set. It was a close 3rd set the whole way, as the two teams were trading points back and forth. The Gaels ended up winning 25-23 off a missed serve from the Dons. This win electrified the team and they easily handled Loyola in the 4th set, which led to a huge 5th that would decide the match. MSJ was up early, but the Dons came storming back and tied it. The team saw themselves up 14-13 with a chance to win the game on the next point. Middle hitter Patrick Connolly went up and spiked it straight down on the Dons’ side, and the Volleygaels were going to the championship for the first time since 2006.

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St. Joe Volleyball came up just short, losing to Gilman in the finals.

In the championship Mount Saint Joe squared off with Gilman yet again for a chance to win it all. The Gaels found themselves down 2-0 yet again and pulled away to win an exciting 3rd set keeping the season alive. The energy was through the roof as the student section filled up a whole section of the stands. In the 4th set, the Gaels fell apart early and couldn’t recover as Gilman ended up taking the set 25-15, resulting in a championship win for them. The team had an incredible run and solidified themselves as one of the best volleyball teams in recent memory. It was a great season, and the program can’t wait to try to redeem themselves next year.

Junior Ethan Hall also contributed to this article by interviewing Head Coach Sam Bianco.

A Season on the Bench: MSJ Volleyball

Our Varsity Volleyball team had a wild season. Last year’s starting lineup was almost fully made up of graduating seniors, so coming into this year, no one had any idea who would be the stars and who would be the supporters.

Our team this year was a very diverse group of kids, personality-wise. There were a lot of characters within this group of guys, notably those who spent most of their time on the bench. I myself was a member of the bench squad staring early in the season. Even with our diverse personalities, the team clicked almost instantly. The chemistry this year was really remarkable. Everyone on the team supported each other and came together for the love of the game.

We started off the season pretty rough with three losses in a row. Our team took a while to get used to each other and to develop a general style of play. An inexperienced setter, a rookie, and whole lot of second year players made for a difficult beginning. We were practicing and competing well, but we couldn’t seem to put it all together during the games. We hit an all-time low about halfway through the season with a record of 2-8.

The team got really hungry for a win at this point in the season. It was around this time when we started to really turn it on. We were playing for a playoff spot, and to do that we needed at least three more wins. When we played St. Paul’s for the second time, we were a whole different team. We really had grown as a squad and were ready to show it. We attained three glorious wins in a row, defeating St. Paul’s, John Carroll, and Archbishop Curley.

We then had to play St. Paul’s for a third time at the end of our regular season in a play-in game, which would decide whether or not we would make it to the playoffs. With the help of our rowdy student section and our even rowdier bench, we conquered St. Paul’s a final time. Unfortunately, after that we suffered a heart-breaking loss against Spalding, which ended our memorable season.

Coach Bianco is the most passionate volleyballer I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Once again I stood with Coach outside the cafeteria and asked my mentor a few questions. He said, “I expected us to make the playoffs. I expected us to compete at a high level. I think I also expected us to start a little slow, as we did. We had a lot of inexperience this year on the team, some younger players which typically we don’t see at the varsity level. But I think we met those expectations very well.”

Evan Flesher, nicknamed by Coach Davis as “Fleesher,” led the team in kills. Evan and I played our rookie years together back when we were sophomores on the J.V. team. Evan played club ball this past year and really improved for this season. He came out swinging and was one of our greatest threats all season long. I interviewed my good man about the team this past season, and he commented positively on their attitude, saying, “Nobody was really upset that they were on the bench or starting. They were just out there having fun, and that’s what every team needs.”

The bench was probably the most memorable part of this volleyball team. We really made a name for ourselves as the best bench in the league through our constant support and memorable victory dance moves. I had a chance to interview two fellow members of the bench squad: Matt Carr and Brian Gorman.
Carr explained, “We feasted off the crowd’s reactions. When we saw people laughing at us in the stands, we just kinda wanted to do more and just please the crowd, and that’s what we did.”

The team this year was indeed very special. It’s a team I’ll never forget being on. I hope MSJ volleyball can continue its rowdy legacy next year and maybe even get a better record than this year. Go Gaels.

Click Here For The Full “Benchwarmers” Interview